It's been far too long since I've been able to write this series, and I'm so glad the first one gets to be a stoppage time winner because quite honestly, that was a pretty sloppy one from FC Dallas last night. Yes, it is the first match of the season and there's always nerves and a lot of little rust still on the boots, but still. If Super Raton didn't head that wayward
shot pass into the back of the net, this would have a much darker feel to it.
Quickly, here are some thoughts from the match last night against San Jose.
Harris: A Work In Progress
This is not to be a surprise to anyone. Players switching roles takes time a lot of practice to get right at such a high level. Atiba Harris made his debut at right back and looked very much the part of a debutant, despite his years of experience as a professional soccer player. Just look at his passing chart:
That's 17/27 passing with only one cross (which was unsuccessful). For a player with his attacking background, you would think that he could get up the field and contribute a bit more to the attack than he did. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he was most likely assigned to stay back a bit to stay with Shea Salinas, but whenever he did get forward, Harris didn't do much with the ball.
Defensively, Harris looked out of place being caught flat footed multiple times and took the bait when Salinas slipped by him and picked up a silly yellow in the 50th minute in a very dangerous position. He definitely needs more time to acclimate to the new position, so I wouldn't write him off completely yet but this was a very discouraging debut for him.
In related news, I hear Je-Vaughn Watson's agent has called the front office with his best Jerry McGuire impression.
Overall, the game was pretty sloppy (did I mention this already?) from Dallas. In the first half Mauro Diaz was just 1/3 passing in the final third and Fabian Castillo had only 16 touches on the ball, with more coming closer to the center circle than the opponents 18 yard box.
Above is the team's passing chart in the first half. Notice the shape and that most of the passing volume came from within Dallas' own half and there were hardly any passes inside the final third. Now contrast that with the second half:
Quite a big difference between the halves as more of Dallas' passes took place in the attacking half and quite a bit more in the final third compared to the first half. (It was actually 52 passes compared to just 20.) Credit to Oscar Pareja again for making those adjustments to give his team the best chance for success.
One tactical adjustment that was made was moving Castillo a little more wide. I've not been a fan of Fabian lining up top as a striker. Yes, he has the speed to get behind defenders but he doesn't know how to make those runs to effectively get behind. Where Castillo does excel though is out wide, ball at his feet with space behind the defense. He is just simply far more dangerous with the ball on his feet.
This one, unsurprisingly, continues to impress. The obvious nod is the clean sheet. Remember that it took this team 14 games to register their first clean sheet, so to get the first one right out of the gate is a good start. Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd managed to keep San Jose to just 9 attempts on goal (2 on target, 4 off target and 3 blocked).
Of course, credit to Chris Seitz too for several of his saves, especially that one on Wondolowski in the 10th minute after a bad Hedges giveaway in the final third. But overall, Hedges-Loyd did a very good job of keeping everything in front of them and keeping the San Jose attack at bay. Unless something drastically changes, this centerback pairing will probably be the first choice selection for Pareja for the rest of 2015.
Right Wing Riches
Ryan Hollingshead tore up the preseason and came into the season not only on a hot streak but also on Oscar Pareja's good graces as he came in very well prepared and did his homework. Hollingshead looked very active and involved, both ways and showed why many scouts considered him a first round draft pick in 2013. His effort and overall play didn't show up on the Chalkboard, but I did want to mention just how good he looked.
And of course, as if Pareja needed more attacking options to his already loaded squad, Michael Barrios made his league debut as well and was an instant impact. He only got 15 minutes of action, but that was enough time for him to show the home fans his low center of gravity and his wonderful crossing ability. He made two crosses, both with a lot of pace and intent and most importantly, found their intended targets. Goals would have been scored had Blas Perez or Tesho Akindele had a softer touch in those key moments.
In the end though, three points is three points and it's hard to argue against this: